Google will cripple Android VPN services that threaten to break advertisements

A pipe with binary data flowing and Google logo overlay

Google seems to be safeguarding its advertising business. The company has confirmed that it will prohibit Android VPN apps on its Play store from interfering with or blocking advertising. Needless to add, this decision could help Google, but it may pose problems for some applications that need privacy and secure transmission of data.

The updated Google Play policy, which outlines specific requirements for VPN services that work on Android devices, was announced last month. It will take effect on November 1.

Google basically asks all VPN service providers to use the Android VPNService base class. Apps that explicitly confirm they offer VPN services and choose to use Google’s VPN API, would be allowed to open a secure device-level tunnel to a remote service.

However, no VPN service should, “manipulate ads that can impact apps monetization”. In other words, VPN service providers may open a secure device-level channel for data exchange that takes place via a remote service. However, services will have to ensure that apps and services that pass through the VPN tunnel retain their communication to ad servers.

The revised Terms and Conditions state that developers must declare the use of VPNservice in their apps' Google Play listing, must encrypt data from the device to the VPN endpoint, and must comply with Developer Program Policies, particularly those related to ad fraud, permissions, and malware.

The majority of these conditions seem logical as they will secure a user’s data. Users will have the added reassurance that the data isn’t being used in any other way. Nonetheless, it appears Google may be prioritizing its own interests.

Google claims it is taking action against apps that advertise a VPN service, but use it instead to track user data. These apps can, and often do reroute user traffic to earn money through ads.

Incidentally, Apple's iOS App Store has a very similar requirement. Apple mandates VPN service providers use a specific VPN API, called NEVPNManager. The API is only available to developers who are part of an organization.

Via: The Register

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